Heretics R Us

I saw this image from Gaping Void the other day, and it reminded me of the Theological Statement for our session on Heresy, Heretics R Us.

The only letter of complaint we've ever gotten from a customer was from a priest who was shocked and appalled about this session. I suspect he hadn't actually looked at the session; just the title. To be sure, there's heresy that's wrong and dangerous, but there's also heresy that invites inclusion, gives power to the formerly powerless, opens us up to new truth and information, and restores right relationships. It's important for us to be able to tell the difference -- though it isn't easy. That's why we need to talk about heresy when we talk about what we believe. 

Here's the statement from the beginning of Session 4: Heretics R Us.

Martin Luther was one. So was Thomas Cranmer, author of the first Book of Common Prayer and leader of the Anglican Reformation. So was William Tyndale, who translated the Bible into English. So was Joan of Arc. Those who proposed the end of the monarchy, the end of slavery, the rights of women, and the teaching of evolution—all have been labeled heretics.

Although the term “heresy” is most commonly applied to religious people who go against the doctrines or teachings of their faith, a heretic can be anyone who is out of step with the powers-that-be.

Heresy is less about whether something is true or false than it is about who gets to be in control. When Galileo Galilei supported the concept of heliocentrism, he was tried for heresy not because his proposal might or might not be true, but because his ideas would undermine the authority of the church and its power to determine the meaning of Scripture.

Those in power have no problem when a crackpot who is easily discredited spouts a crazy theory that’s easily disproved. Crackpots are not heretics. Heretics are those who might actually challenge the status quo, who might disturb the balance of power. Heretics are not always right, but they are always threatening to those in charge.

The truth is, many people who were once called heretics have made our world a better place. This session celebrates the courage and complexity of heresy and opens the youth up to the idea that they, too, might be heretics who can change the world for the better.